We Belong To Each Other - A Love Story
--by miatagano, posted Jun 20, 2019
Yesterday evening, my partner John and I came to see my grandmother at the nursing home where she lives…as we were walking down the hall towards her room, I saw the elder who wears an orange turban ….I don’t know him exactly and he doesn’t speak anymore but I always stop and say hello when I see him; I put my hand out and usually he will look at me, lift his hand up and we shake hands; he has the most gentle spirit and strong presence even though he is ½ foot here on earth and 1 ½ in the spirit world.
I don’t know much about turbans exactly – from the outside it is a very simple thing- fabric wrapped around the head and yet, I know it is so much more, sacred in fact; his is typically always immaculately placed around his head covering his hair; he is the only one in the nursing home of 100+ that wears such a head wrap; I know that there are humans who have been violated in many ways for wearing this wrap…I remember after 9-11 so many taxi drivers, many from the Sikh religion, wore these and were the victims of hate crimes and attacks. It is hard for me not to worry about this elder when I see him with his head covered like this because I don’t want anyone to hurt him…he is so vulnerable really even in a “care home” – I have seen over the years acts that are less than caring here.
Anyway, I also trust his God, his faith, his kind presence will protect him; I know the fabric he wears on his head is a deeply personal part of his being and beliefs. Last evening when I saw him, his wrap and hair were in complete disarray. It looked as if someone had unwrapped the scarf and deliberately put it on him in a way that was mocking and then set him in the middle of the hallway where he was being ignored. I stopped in a sort of shock.
I told John to please go ahead. I didn’t know what I was going to do but I knew this was not right and I couldn’t walk by him. His small weak body hunched over in the wheel chair, eyes vacant, the orange fabric and his silver hair creating a kind of surreal art piece in this place of no care. I crouched down to him to meet his eyes and said, may I help you? His eyes focused then and seemed in my mind to say yes. I was not sure if it was even okay in his belief for a female and non family member to touch him but I felt certain that my good intention would be felt.
I moved his wheel chair to against the wall so we would not be in the middle of the path; I gently took the fabric off his head and pressed it out a bit with my hands. I had no comb so I used my fingers to straighten out his hair and move it off of his face. Then I said, “I don’t know how to do this so we need to work together.” His hand slowly moved up to his forehead shaking and held a piece of the fabric, I put my hand where his was and kept it there while he then moved it towards the rest of the fabric to guide it around his head. His other hand came up as well and our hands seemed to work together. We seemed like one for those moments. We tried and tried but the fabric kept falling off though and so I said, “Uncle! I can look this up on youtube – it will show us how to do it!” But when I found a video and began to watch, I saw that he began to disconnect again. So I put the phone down and said, “We don’t need it. We will find a way.” So we tried again and though it wasn’t perfect, it looked closer to it’s “normal” and a sort of dignity was regained.
I left him then to go to my grandmother. She was in bed with the covers over her face. John was sitting there next to her. She had gotten angry because he had tried to get her out of bed. She likes to go to bed earlier and earlier these days but then ends up getting up in the middle of the night where falls are more worrisome so we try to keep her up later. I sat on her bed and gently pulled the covers down a bit as I put my face close to hers, “Hello!” I said, touching her nose with mine. “I have to go to the bathroom”, she said. “Okay”, I said, “let’s go!” So we did. And, from there began our ritual of play. Later, after various games that activate the mind and heart, we put her back to bed again and we hugged and kissed as we do and I wished her sweet dreams.
On our way out I saw the wife and daughter of the man I had been with earlier. I told them briefly what happened – I said I hoped it was okay and that if they would like to show me how to do it properly I would do my best if I came in to the same scenario. The wife held my hand and blessed me multiple times. She told me that her husband was Punjabi and of the Sikh religion and that his belief was his life…that his hair had never been cut and that he prayed at least twice daily starting every morning by putting his turban on…her sad eyes came more alive as she spoke and a twinkle emerged. She blessed me again and we held hands. Just as with her husband, it felt as if we were one and that time had stopped. It is the same with my grandmother.
As Mother Teresa said, we “belong to each other” and Ram Dass, “we are all just walking each other home.” If only we could really see each other as family and from a place of connectedness, we would not see any border or divide – we would not forget our innate love natures. As a friend ,Pancho, who has walked across California - with only faith in humanity, no money or tent - these past 90 days to the “so called border” and who was treated so kindly by the Punjabi people, at the Sikh temples along his route, who fed and housed him with such love trust and care, said to me – “MiaSan, these experiences of building bridges are so important - we just have to keep coming together, keep loving as we do.” We must be the change we wish to see. May peace prevail on earth.